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Tourism is crucial to the Scottish economy and the jobs it supports are particularly important in rural areas.
Two public opinion surveys were conducted in 2002. The first, for VisitScotland, at locations all over the country, suggested 26 per cent of tourists would be unlikely to return to an area with wind turbines. This was an objective survey but its results are now somewhat out of date since there were about 100 developments proposed at the time and today there are over 250.
The second, conducted two months later in Argyll for wind industry trade organisations Scottish Renewables and the British Wind Energy Association, concluded wind developments would not deter tourists from visiting the area in the future. Unfortunately little supporting data is available for analysis but this survey has also been overtaken by time—to the three developments in Argyll have been added 22 applications or proposals and extensions to two of the original sites with turbines up to twice the height.
Nobody but the wind industry and its most zealous supporters believes that wind developments will encourage tourism. The notion that visitors from the north of England will drive past hundreds of turbines in the Borders and the central belt in order to look at some more in the Highlands—and vice versa—is nonsense.
The ideal way to measure the effect on tourism of thousands of turbines across Scotland’s wild places is to count the visitors who stay away. But by then, of course, it is too late.
The current rush to develop onshore wind power will have a significant effect on our rural landscape and could have a seriously detrimental effect on our tourism industry. We cannot take a short-term view on such matters.
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